Motorcyclists are on their way to the Grand Strand for an annual fall bike rally despite the ongoing pandemic.
And the Murrells Inlet bar Suck Bang Blow will host an event for the upcoming fall bike rally after submitting new plans to promote social distancing during the weeklong activities.
On Thursday night reports that the bar had lost their permission to host an event with more than 250 people were quickly corrected by SBB’s owner William Couch. SBB, a bar popular with motorcyclists, is preparing for a fall rally this weekend where it’s likely hundreds of bikers will stop by the bar, located just off Highway 17 Business.
Currently, South Carolina requires event planners to apply for special permission to host an event with more than 250 people. Approving or denying the requests is the responsibility of the South Carolina Department of Commerce.
Originally the bar’s request to host an event with 250 or more people was revoked because of events held during a summer bike rally during the week of July 13 that state officials believed violated social distance requirements.
After photos from SBB of a large crowd, including people not wearing masks, went viral on the internet, the state’s Department of Revenue issued a letter to SBB in August recommending its liquor license be revoked for violating executive orders from Gov. Henry McMaster.
“SBBs flagrant disregard for the law and for the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Horry County and the state of South Carolina justifies a permanent revocation of its liquor license and beer and wine permits,” according to a legal notice sent to SBB.
At the time, theaters and other concert halls were banned from opening but those restrictions have since lifted. McMaster required all bars to stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m. and that order is still in effect.
Masks are required in Horry County due to an emergency ordinance re-approved last week, but those requirements do not apply while outdoors or eating.
Couch said he feels the DOR’s letter was unfair given that he had permission from Horry County to host an event and that the capacity restrictions as they exist now hadn’t yet been put into place.
“We felt like at the time we were abiding by the rules, but now the rules are changed and we are too,” Couch said. “We are taking more precautions to limit the amount of people on our property.“
The DOR specifically cited a July 18 Bone Thugs-N-Harmony concert as an example of SBB violating the governor’s orders. After the event, Couch said his bar was willing to work with McMaster and the government moving forward.
Ultimately, it was up to the Dept. of Commerce if SBB would be given another chance to host an event with more than 250 people. Department Spokesperson Alex Clark said while the event permission was originally revoked due to previously violating the governor’s orders, SBB changed its application to provide more specific information about how it planned to enforce social distancing during the fall rally events.
“It is important to note that this event exception process allows event applicants to revise their plans and resubmit and/or speak with our team to garner a better understanding of what they need to do to ensure a safe event,” Clark wrote in an email. “In that vein and after further discussion with the business owner, who outlined additional measures demonstrating the ability to adhere to the Governor’s Executive Order, we made the determination to overturn the revocation.”
Changes included SBB promising to hire additional security from out of town to act as “clickers” to monitor how many people enter the establishment, hiring an outside cleaning crew to keep facilities sanitized, implemented a new plan to space out seating areas and law enforcement will be on scene to ensure social distancing requirements are followed.
For the fall rally, SBB planned a week’s worth of events beginning on Friday, Sept. 25 and lasting into the first weekend of October. Beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 30 the bar will have full music line-ups beginning at 1 p.m. and with the last act going on stage at 9 p.m.
In total, the state allowed SBB to have a maximum occupancy of 2,945 people on three acres of property.
Couch said his bar worked with the government to make sure the latest event could be a success. Anyone entering the building will be required to wear a mask.
“We’re excited the fall rally is happening. It’s not just good for a biker bar, but it’s good for all the small businesses at the beach,” Couch said to the Post and Courier.
Currently, SBB is still allowed to serve alcohol because the owners challenged the DOR recommendation that its liquor license be revoked. If the appeal is unsuccessful, the bar may not be able to serve alcohol anymore.
“As it stands right now, SBB will still be able to serve alcohol while their appeal is pending. Under state law, once a business has a license, they are permitted to continue using the license during any revocation proceeding brought by DOR,” department spokesperson Tim Smith wrote.
Couch is hopeful that the hearing will end favorably for his business.
“I believe we were in compliance during the July events, and we had a permit from Horry County to hold it,” Couch said. “We look forward to presenting our position at a later date … it’ll probably take months for it to get resolved but we are operating normally as business and complying with all the governor’s orders.“
While SBB will continue to serve alcohol for the fall rally, another bar popular with bikers will not. The Rum Bar, also known as Barnacle Bill’s Rum and Raw Bar, lost its liquor license due to serving alcohol during restricted hours and hindering a SLED investigation on the property, according to a legal notice sent to the bar.
SLED spokesperson Tommy Crosby said his agency and the Myrtle Beach Police Department responded to the Rum Bar after getting a complaint.
“Upon arriving, the business intentionally tried to hinder our investigation by purposely denying law enforcement access to the premises by pretending to be closed and refusing to acknowledge the commands of officers who were trying to gain access,” Crosby said.
Law enforcement officers eventually got inside and found evidence that an executive order was violated, Crosby added.
Unlike SBB, the Rum Bar did not file an appeal of the ruling ahead of a 30-day deadline. It is no longer able to serve alcohol on the premises.
An attempt to reach the Rum Bar to comment for this story was unsuccessful. The bar announced on Friday that it was closing for the day to repair damage done by SLED officers who tried to enter the property.
The Facebook post said the bar had just removed “10 wanna be gangsters” for fighting and closed down before SLED arrived. The post claims the bar staff thought the officers were the troublemakers trying to re-enter the bar and that’s why they initially blocked officers from entering.
The Rum Bar post also placed blame on local media.
“Thanks local media for helping destroy another local business over this bullshit PLANDEMIC,” the post stated.
Regardless of event permits or liquor license disputes, the coronavirus pandemic is an ongoing threat to Horry County, Myrtle Beach and South Carolina. While daily confirmed case counts and deaths have improved since summer, the death toll continues to rise.
While public health officials recommend avoiding large events, the approvals for them have continued to grow, leaving health officials to reiterate the importance of masks, social distancing and being tested for COVID-19 soon thereafter.